Official identified in Cho testimony

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Official identified in Cho testimony

Prosecutors have obtained testimony from an official from a Seoul district office, in which he claims that a Blue House functionary asked him to illegally access the family registration documents of a 54-year-old woman and her 11-year-old son - the alleged paramour and love child of former Prosecutor-General Chae Dong-wook.

According to the JoongAng Ilbo, Cho Lee-je, the director of the administrative assistance team at Seoul’s Seocho District Office, told prosecutors during questioning on Thursday that it was an official on the Blue House’s general affairs team who requested he illegally access the documents.

Cho reportedly told prosecutors that the man, who is also surnamed Cho, asked him to view the woman’s family registration papers on June 11, three days before the prosecution indicted Won Sei-hoon, the former chief of the National Intelligence Service, on charges that he violated the National Election Law by ordering NIS agents to conduct an online smear campaign against Democratic Party presidential candidate Moon Jae-in ahead of last year’s election.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office suspects the Blue House official texted Cho Lee-je via mobile phone the 11-year-old boy’s name, social registration number and home address, which the district official then used to illegally access the family’s registration documents.

The prosecutors are now investigating why Cho made such a request and how he came to acquire the boy’s personal profile, particularly since he works on the general affairs team, which oversees the presidential office’s budget and maintenance, a task irrelevant to an inquiry related to Prosecutor-General Chae.

He is expected to be summoned for questioning sometime this week.

Blue House officials denied any responsibility yesterday.

“Cho is not in a position to make such a request. Cho even wants to have a cross-examination [with Cho Lee-je to prove that the accusation is wrong],” said an official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The Blue House functionary’s alleged involvement, however, could likely enforce suspicions that the presidential office was behind a scheme to oust Chae from the top post at the prosecution.

Likewise, the fact that Chae oversaw the prosecution’s aggressive investigation into the spy agency’s alleged online smear campaign during last year’s election adds to speculation that the NIS and the Blue House could have collaborated in a scheme to oust him from his post.

And the fact that Cho Lee-je was a close aide to Won - who appointed him as his administrative secretary when he was the public administration and security minister in 2008 during the Lee Myung-bak administration - has only served to bolster suspicions that the NIS was involved in the leak of the 54-year-old woman’s personal documents.

Chae resigned as prosecutor general in September amid swirling allegations over his personal history.

He has not been seen in public over the past two months since he stepped down.


BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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